A prosecutor alleges a Dakota County employee violated state privacy laws when he forwarded a confidential work e-mail to his home — a message that gave identifying details of two lawmakers who were cited after a park ranger found them “making out” in a parked car in Eagan.
Thomas Berry, 45, was one of 33 employees who received via e-mail an Aug. 26 report that detailed the “parks activity.” It included nine incidents and five names and other details such as dates of birth and addresses.
The new complaint does not name those included in the initial report that Berry received, but it does give initials of the five individuals who had run-ins with authorities.
The date of the incident and the initials matched state Rep. Tara Mack, R-Apple Valley, and Rep. Tim Kelly, R-Red Wing, who were given tickets on Aug. 25 after being found by a park ranger in a car having physical contact. One of them had their pants down, the park ranger reported.
Berry printed out the report and also forwarded a copy to his home computer, according to the complaint filed by prosecutor Michael Molenda in Dakota County Court. Berry works for the Dakota County Water Resources Department.
Berry later told investigators he was interested in sharing two of the entries with his wife, according to the complaint.
The misdemeanor charge of violating the state privacy law carries a maximum penalty of 90 days in jail and a $1,000 fine.
Berry did not respond to e-mail and phone messages to his workplace seeking comment. His wife, Kristin, is a piano teacher in Apple Valley.
Nancy Hohbach, the county’s employee relations director, said Dakota County has launched internal employment and data practices investigations into the Berry’s handling of private data. “Information related to these civil investigations is private at this time,” she said.
In initial media coverage of the citation, Mack and Kelly denied the park ranger’s version of events and said they would fight the ticket. They later changed course and paid the fine, but continued to take issue with the ranger’s version of events.
Dakota County Sheriff Tim Leslie has supported the officer.
The revelations about Mack and Kelly, who were both married to other people, has caused a considerable political headache for House Republicans trying to defend their majority in next year’s election. Both Mack and Kelly were considered safe incumbents until the incident.
Mack said she had no immediate comment.
Said Kelly: “My understanding is the prosecutor is doing his job.”
Berry has been summoned to appear in court Dec. 10.